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  • Zoological Research 35(S1): 10−19 DOI: 10.13918/j.issn.2095-8137.2014.s1.0010

    Science Press Volume 35 Issue S1

    Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) in Bhutan: Current population status and conservation initiatives

    Tshering Phuntsho, Jigme Tshering

    Royal Society for Protection of Nature, P.O Box 325, Lhado Lam, Kawajangsa, Thimphu, Bhutan

    Abstract: Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) is classified as Vulnerable under the IUCN Red List Categories and legally protected in Bhutan. Bhutan is an important and the largest winter non-breeding habitat outside of the Chinese boundary. Black- necked Cranes winter in Bhutan for about five months, and they come to central (Phobjilka, Khotokha and Gyetsa) and eastern (Bumdeling) Bhutan. In Bhutan most wintering areas lie within the Conservation or protected areas, and Bumdeling and Khotokha are declared as RAMSAR site. The Royal Society for Protection of Nature and Department of Forest and Park Services initiated the counting of Black-necked Cranes in Bhutan from 1986-1987 winter. In the last 28 winters (1986-2013), the average annual number of arrivals of Black-necked Cranes in Bhutan was 4151. With only 370 Black-necked Cranes visiting Bhutan in the 1986-1987 winter to 550 Black-necked Cranes visiting Bhutan in 2013-2014 winter there has been an increase of 48.6% growth2. The average growth rate of Black-necked Cranes visiting Bhutan has increased by 1.73% (six cranes) annually in the last 28 years. Black-necked Cranes visiting Bhutan has steadily increased over the past two and a half decades. While Phobjikha valley has a gradual increase in Black- necked Crane arrivals, Bumthang, Bumdeling and Khotokha have seen fewer cranes especially after the early 1990s. For Bhutan as a whole, in the year with the highest count of Black-necked Cranes (550), this number included 63 juveniles indicating juvenile recruitment of 11.4%.Threats to these birds are mostly anthropogenic in nature driven by economic development and advancement. Around the globe, primary threats impacting Black-necked Cranes are agriculture and tourism. Conservation initiatives in these habitats include habitat rehabilitation, habitat and predation studies, awareness programs and banding research activities. Sustainable livelihood programs have also been implemented in Phobjikha and Bumdeling with the former receiving more attention. Bhutan’s sound conservation policies and respect for the Black-necked Cranes as the LhaBja heavenly bird have provided both legal and social protection to this winter guest.

    Keywords: Black-necked Cranes; Population; Bhutan; Winter habitats; Trends; Ramsar sites; Threats, Conservation.

    不丹的黑颈鹤:种群现状和保护

    Tshering Phuntsho, Jigme Tshering Royal Society for Protection of Nature, P.O Box 325, Lhado Lam ,Kawajangsa, Thimphu, Bhutan

    摘要:黑颈鹤(Grus nigricollis)在世界自然保护联盟濒危物种红色名录中被列为“易危”物种,在不丹也同样受法律保护。 不丹是重要的、也是除中国之外的最大黑颈鹤越冬地。黑颈鹤在不丹的越冬期为 5 个月,越冬区域为不丹的中部 (Phobjilka, Khotokha 和 Gyetsa)和东部(Bumdeling)。不丹的黑颈鹤同步统计工作始于 1986—1987 年冬季,调查地点包 括了最主要的几个越冬区,如不丹中部的 Phobjikha 和 Khotokha 以及东部的 Bumdeling。调查工作由不丹皇家自然保护学 会和林业部(现为林业和公园服务部)发起。从 1986—1987 冬季开始,至 2013—2014 冬季(共 28 个越冬期),同步调查

    1Average of Black-necked Crane (BNC) arrival in Bhutan in the last 28 years. 2Growth rate has been calculated based on the annual BNC peak count data available at RSPN for the past 28 winter periods.

  • Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) in Bhutan: Current population status and conservation initiatives 11

    Kunming Institute of Zoology (CAS), China Zoological Society Volume 35 Issue S1

    结果表明平均每年的越冬黑颈鹤数量为 415 只 1。在 1986—1987 冬季,黑颈鹤数量仅为 370 只,但在 2013—2014 年冬季调 查中,黑颈鹤数量已达 550 只,增长率高达 48.6% 2。在 28 年中,平均每年的种群增长率为 1.73%,或者说每年会增加 6 只黑颈鹤。在过去的两个半世纪中,不丹的黑颈鹤数量一直在稳步增加。但是除了 Phobjikha 山谷地区的黑颈鹤数量在逐步 增长以外,其他几个地点,如 Bumthang、Bumdeling 和 Khotokha 的数量却在减少,尤其是在 20 世纪 90 年代初之后。整体 来看,在黑颈鹤统计数量最多的那一年,共 550 只,幼鹤数量为 63 只,幼体新增率为 11.4%。最引人注目的保护工作是 Phobjikha 和 Bumdeling 两地均已晋升为保护地,其中 Phobjikha 为保护区,而 Bumdeling falls(位于 Bumdeling 野生动物庇 护所)则成为了国际重要湿地。Khotokha 和 Bumdeling 一样,也在 2012 年成为了国际重要湿地。在 Bumthang 地区的 Thangbi falls(位于 Ugyen Wangchuck Centennial Park ),黑颈鹤同样受到了有效保护。在这些地区,黑颈鹤受到的主要威 胁是人类经济发展导致的对自然环境的破坏。今后的保护计划主要包括生境恢复、生境和捕猎研究、宣教项目、环志研究

    等。“可持续民生发展项目”也已在 Phobjikha 和 Bumdeling 实施,其中在 Phobjikha 的项目尤其备受关注。在法律层面上, 针对黑颈鹤的保护政策日趋完善,而在社会文化中,民众一直视黑颈鹤为“LhaBja” ,即“天堂之鸟”,这些均保证了黑颈鹤 会得到最好的保护。

    关键词:黑颈鹤;种群;不丹;越冬生境;趋势;国际重要湿地;威胁;保护

    中图分类号:Q958.1;Q959.7 文献标志码:A 文章编号:2095-8137-(2014)s1-0010-10

    In Bhutan, Phobjikha valley (1,244 ha)3, Bumdeling (141.5 ha), Khotokha (113.5 ha) and Bumthang4 are considered major winter habitats of the Black-necked Cranes (Grus nigricollis) and all are accessible by road (c.f. Figure 1). The total habitat area is 1,499 ha. While Black-necked Cranes were previously reported in several other districts and places (Lhendup & Webb, 2009; BirdLife International (2001) and acknowledged by Chacko (1992a), no observations have been made in recent years. Black-necked Cranes are also seen in small numbers in Kurtoe in Lhuntse, Eastern Bhutan. Isolated sightings of Black-necked Cranes were reported between 2011-2013 to the Royal Society for Protection of Nature from various places such as Karbithang in Gelephu (265 m5, 4 individuals), Chuzergang in Gelephu (8 individuals), Kichu in Paro (2 individuals), Kangpara in Tashigang (3 individuals), Tshekhathang, Phochhu in Punakha (3 individuals), Kabesa in Thimphu (3 individuals), Kabesa in Punakha (3 individuals) in 2010 and 2011 and Ramtoktok in Thimphu (1 individual). While Bumdeling and Phobjikha fall under Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary and Phobjikha Conservation Area6 respectively, Thangbi in Bumthang falls under Wangchuck Centennial National Park (WCNP). Khotokha and Gyetsa in Bumthang are located on the peripherals of the national parks. Bumdeling and Khotokha have been designated as Ramsar Site No. 2032 and Site No. 2033 respectively since 2012. The Royal Government of Bhutan has submitted the Ramsar Information Sheet to the RAMSAR Secretariat for Phobjikha. The average altitude of winter habitats in Bhutan is about 2,558.2 meters above sea level (m).

    Bumdeling 1 is the warmest and lowest habitat at 1,850 m compared to Phobjikha (2,787 m), Khotokha (2,617 m) and Gyetsa (2,639 m) and Tangbi (2,898 m) in Bumthang. Except for Bumdeling, the rest of the habitats are alpine marshland and local people mostly cultivate potato, wheat, barley, buckwheat, radish and turnip. Bumdeling is located in the eastern most part of Bhutan along the banks of the Kholong Chhu river and the people predominantly cultivate rice (c.f. Table 1). Black- necked Cranes usually arrive in Bhutan inthe last week of October and fly back to their summer habitats from mid to late March after a stay of about five months. Figure 1 shows the major winter habitats of Black- necked Cranes in Bhutan namely Phobjikha and Khotokha in the Wangdue Phodrang District, Thangbi and Gyetsa in the Bumthang District and Bumdeling in the Trashi Yangtse District.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS Literature review

    Most of the historical accounts of Black-necked

    Received:1 December 2014 ; Accepted date: 15 December 2014 *Corresponding author: E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected] 3Only marshy area and does not include water spread (ICIMOD and RSPN, 2014). 4Bumthang represents two specific area namely Thangbi and Gyetsa within the Bumthang District. No area size data available. 5Black-necked Cranes sighted at the lowest altitude ever recorded in Bhutan. 6Phobjikha Conservation Area is recognized as Conservation Area under the

    Biodiversity Action Plan of Bhutan (BAP) 2002 and 2009, and National

    Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan 2014.

  • 12 Phuntsho, et al.

    Zoological Research www.zoores.ac.cn

    Figure 1 Major Black-necked Crane winter habitats in Bhutan

    Table 1 Principal Black-necked Crane winter habitat in Bhutan

    Habitat Name/ Ramsar site No. Location District

    Average altitude (in

    meters) Area, type and other remarks

    Ranking:Crane arrival in 2013-2014 winter

    period

    Bumdeling